Running a local government is not sexy. It’s making sure that roads are maintained, there is water to drink, health clinics are stocked and staffed, and schools are equipped to teach. Often, it means doing these things with limited resources, infrastructure, and manpower. With few exceptions, there is little fanfare and glamour. It’s a bit like being a soccer referee: you’re doing a good job when no one notices you’re there.
We took over the management of the obstetrics, gynecology, and pediatric hospital in Yaoundé (HGOPY) in 2014, inheriting an institution that faced chronic structural debt, obsolete equipment, and dilapidated buildings. No debt repayment plan was in place and fixed expenses such as staff salaries and benefits were extremely high.
This situation was regrettably common in many institutions across Africa which were hit hard by the economic and social crisis that resulted from structural adjustment policies implemented in by several countries, including Cameroon. Furthermore, the decision to increase health care charges adversely affected the poorest, limiting their access to health care and leading to a rise in maternal and infant mortality rates.
In response, African countries signed the Abuja Declaration in 2000, committing to earmark at least 15% of their national budget to the health sector. In addition to the goal of providing universal health care, the sector was expected to enhance the performance, effectiveness, and efficiency of its services.
The medical profession, by necessity, has hard requirements (inflexible and critical requirements) for measuring competencies and performance. In fact, such measurement is mission critical. While the development profession does not have “hard” requirements, we can learn from their rigorous approach. Here are a few principles and rules that we could borrow:
According to a training report no less than $55.4 billion in 2013 was spent on training, including payroll and external products and services, in the US alone. The US and other countries spend a significant amount of money on employee development with the implicit assumption that training is correlated to improved on- the- job performance. However, what exactly should we measure to ensure that this money is well spent? What is it that we need to measure to determine that employees are performing as expected and thus benefitting from these training expenditures?
Two responses that we often get to this “what should be measured” question are “performance” and “competencies”. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the United States defines performance measurement as the “ongoing monitoring and reporting of program accomplishments, particularly progress toward pre-established goals.” Performance measures, therefore, help define what success at the workplace means (“accomplishments”), and attempt to quantify performance by tracking the achievement of goals. Competencies are generally viewed as “a cluster of related knowledge, skills, and attitudes” (Parry 1996), and are thought to be measurable, correlated to performance, and can be improved through training. While closely connected, they are not the same thing. Competencies are acquired skills, while performance is use of those competencies at work. Measurement of both is critical.
“Social and economic mobility, in any system, is essentially slack arbitrage: hard work is a successful strategy for those at the bottom because those at the top no longer work so hard. By custom, we disparage the idleness of the idle rich. We should encourage it. It is our best chance of taking their place. “
-Malcolm Gladwell, Staff Writer, The New Yorker
-As quoted in The New Yorker article, Slackers, July 30, 2012.
As many of you know by now, CommGAP is closing its doors this fall. We believe we have achieved a lot in the past five years, but we want to know what you think about our work - and about the role of communication for governance reform in general. Please help us assessing our performance and get a sense of your perception of the link between communication and governance by participating in our survey! It only takes about ten minutes. Deadline for participating is July 15.
The Local Governance Support Project (LGSP) is the centrepiece of a broader program to strengthen accountable forms of local governance across Bangladesh. The LGSP provided matching grants and capacity building support to Union Parishads (UPs), which is the lowest tier of rural local government bodies. The project was initiated in July 2006 and in the final year (FY11), it has covered nearly 97% of the 4500 UPs. Each year the UPs are audited, and those that receive a clean audit received an expanded block grant. The LGSP is the first project of its kind in Bangladesh that supported systemic, country-wide reforms in the system of local governance.
As a Chinese working on public sector governance and living in India, I'm often asked to compare the two governing systems, the largest democracy in the world and the largest non-democracy in the world. The gap in political and civil participation between the two countries is well known.
India's civil society and media are much more dynamic and vocal. I particularly admire the impact of the Center for Science and Environment on environmental policy, Pratham on education, the Naz Foundation on gay and lesbian rights, and MKSS on Rights to Information. I’m not aware of equally impactful counterparts in China but would be happy to hear about those you have come across. Certainly China can benefit from moving towards a more open society, where minority voices are heard and rights protected, and where abuse of official power and natural resource is restrained.
But when it comes to building infrastructure and reducing poverty, China is doing much better. Why? We often hear "Yes, but China is an authoritarian regime." -- as if authoritarian regimes automatically are more capable of development. Yes an authoritarian regime can be more efficient in making policies -- good or bad -- because the process of consultation and public deliberation can be truncated. But which theory predicts that democracies are less capable of building good infrastructure quickly or taking care of the poor?
|Children perform during "Call for Green China" – a unique cultural tour to raise awareness about pressing environmental issues in China and possible solutions.|
Other factors are more long term – the sandstorms common when I lived here in 1986 are largely gone, owing to successful re-greening efforts west of here. There was a frenzied pace of construction as modern Beijing was being built, which has naturally slowed down – construction dust was a key part of air pollution here.
There is more room for improvement, but the progress was notable during a lovely April. One key issue going forward will be to continue to control private vehicle use.
The Bank’s increased attention to governance since the early 1990s has naturally brought with it calls for robust measures that enable us to specify what exactly we are trying to improve in this area and how well we seem to be doing it. Overall, however, the consensus on the centrality of good governance to development is yet to be matched by agreement on good indicators for it.